Book Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany

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Photo taken by Alexa Lounsbury

It’s around that time of the summer where we as students realize that half our vacation is almost over, and it’s time to start cracking down on the summer homework. For my AP English Literature class, I was required to read A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.  The book seemed to have a rather shallow plot based on the summary on the back, and I heard from other students who had read it last year that it was a fast read despite its length. When I first picked up the book, I expected it to be finished by the third week of summer. Boy, was I wrong! The plot is neither shallow nor is the story a fast read that one can finish off in an afternoon. This 617-page book has a deep plot that goes more in-depth than what meets the eye. It tells the story of a boy named Owen Meany from the point of view of his childhood friend, John. Owen is a boy with a “wrecked” voice who doesn’t believe in coincidences or accidents. Furthermore, he believes he is God’s instrument and that his fate has already been relayed to him. Teaching John about religious faith, sacrifice, and the injustice of fate through everyday events, Owen Meany is eventually cited as the reason John became a Christian and why he is such a bitter man who cannot let go of the past. The novel does not have a linear plot; Irving jumps from idea to idea, from one year, to two years before it, to five years later. Within chapters Irving will place two or three “diary-like-entry” headings. The narrator tells the story in “flashback-mode”, interrupting it every so often to comment on his life now. With his flashbacks comes a great deal of foreshadowing and a great deal of explanation; I am over halfway through the book and am still waiting to find out how John was “moved to do evil” and what actually happened to Owen Meany. The book explores the depths of human and godlike nature, which in essence is quite interesting. “‘ But everyone needs a little proof,’ said Owen Meany. ‘Faith itself is a miracle, Owen,’ said Pastor Merrill. ‘The first miracle that I believe in is my own faith itself.'” Although this novel may skip around time and jump from idea to idea, it truly is a fascinating story that teaches us to look inward and believe in something without evidence, if only for a little while.

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